Reparations for Emancipation: Mill's Vindication of the Rights of Slave Owners

Southern Journal of Philosophy 43:2 (2005), pp. 245–65

John Stuart Mill maintains that when a state abolishes slavery the former slave owners have a right to compensation for the loss of their “property.” He does not argue explicitly for this claim, and so after presenting a brief summary of his views on slavery itself I attempt to reconstruct his reasoning. While the thought of slaveholders being rewarded for holding human beings in  bondage is not a pleasant one, I contend that the argument I attribute to Mill is at the very least plausible and also that its conclusion may be less repugnant than it initially appears. I also consider, albeit briefly, the wider implication of Mill’s argument for cases of transitional justice and for organizational reforms of all kinds.


Published version  (available on the SJP's website)